Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me…

…so goes the saying but this is not true words are one of the most powerful weapons we possess. Words just like weapons can cause a great deal of harm in the wrong hands.

Here are some words which do hurt ‘Coconut’ a term used to describe someone who is black on the outside and white on the inside. Coloured the name of the setting on my washing machine I most frequently use. Coloured is a term inadvertently used by many to describe a certain ethnic group Benedict Cumberbatch can attest to that!

Immigrant according to the Cambridge Online Dictionary:  is ‘a person who has come to a different country in order to live there permanently’. Yet when you think of an immigrant in this day and age all you hear is negative things. Is it any wonder we have extremist hate groups?

Interestingly expatriate or expat according to the same dictionary means ‘someone who does not live in their own country’. Expats create their own groups to socialise with and generally make little effort to extend beyond that. I guess because they know they won’t be staying there for long why bother making friends? I was amazed to find an Irish bar and even joined belly dance classes in Singapore. I was the worst in the class but it did give me the chance to socialise with native Singaporeans a group predominantly made up of Chinese, Indians and Malaysians and tune my ear to Singlish - colloquial Singapore English.

The westernised restaurants were nowhere near as nice as the multitude of local restaurants, cafes and in particular food courts I found in Singapore. Particularly Two Faced which by day was a traditional eatery serving traditional Singaporean food and buy night it sold the best pizza’s and craft beers I’ve ever sampled. The food courts were mainly frequented by locals who would all get together every Sunday as a family showing respect for their elders by calling them Auntie and Uncle. I remember on one such trip meeting a gentleman only known as ABC John (ABC was his favourite beer!) he was delighted to meet an English couple and insisted on buying us round after round of drinks.

But what made Singapore so special was the tolerance and respect shown to each ethnic group. Singapore has some of the lowest crime rates in the world. According to UN data, Singapore has the second lowest murder rate in the world (Data excludes tiny Palau and Monaco.) Only 16 people were murdered in 2011 in a country with a population of 5.1 million (Source) The Irish bar only appealed to a minority demographic but it was still there and nobody seemed to mind.

There are many Facebook groups which can unite people with similar interests but in the same token divide. For example, I am a member of a Peep Show Quotes group which I check out when I fancy a laugh. I’m currently a member of another group set up for expats in Dubai as my family were considering a move abroad. I joined it to be able to see what life is really like there and have found some useful information but some posts about ‘how much do you pay your maid’ and talk about selling/buying their water cooler as the local water is allegedly not safe to drink get quite waring. I wonder if Zuckerberg realised the social implications of allowing people to break off in separate groups in this way?

I showed my three-year-old son a picture of a map to show him that his Dad was currently working in China he looked at it and said “it’s just one big jigsaw”. Looking at life through the innocence of a child’s eyes is so much nicer but with all the issues in the world it’s easier to divide people so we can have a moan in our separate groups about another group.

Here are some other labels which can be quite damaging and stigmatising psychosis and bipolar. A term/label to describe someone who has a mental illness. Stress on the other hand is a perceived term and means different things to different people. ‘I’m stressed’ because I forgot to bring my carrier bags to the supermarket or ‘I’m stressed’ because my son nearly died of meningitis. ‘I’m stressed because I forgot to go to the bank on my way to a soft play centre and had to pay an extra 30p every time I bought a bottle of water which I needed because I was stressed’. This language is relatively new and not fully understood by all. We need to be more caring and sensitive and remember just because you’ve not heard from a friend for a while that they may be trying to privately deal with their own issues.

When you’re stressed/excited it can affect your hearing meaning that you get louder. Stress can also make you very talkative have you ever heard the term ‘you can’t get a word in edgeways’? you were probably talking to someone who is stressed.

Someone once told me we have two ears and one mouth and that’s the ratio we should try to use when communicating. Just remember everyone has their own problems so be careful with the language you use and always be kind. Language is a powerful weapon and should be used carefully at all times.

kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk or 01625 533102